Chicago Adventures

Went to Chicago for my sister’s wedding and enjoyed being with family this past weekend. I got to meet my youngest niece (14 weeks) and my youngest cousin (14 months) – double score! It was an adventure taking the trains and exploring a bit, and we even got to eat some Chicago style deep dish pizza from Giordano’s (which was to die for)! Although the crowds of a big city are not really my favorite thing, that Chicago skyline is undeniably beautiful. I played tourist and took some photos – these are my three favorites of the city.

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I came back to work after a week off and have had an incredibly hard couple of days back at the hospital. Being a nurse is indescribably difficult some days. An unexpected death, while next door unhappy patients and family members wonder why you took so long getting to them. A terminal diagnosis just given in one room, all the while a patient who is perfectly capable is on their call light complaining and wanting repositioned in another room. Some days it really wears my spirit out, on top of my body not feeling super great lately. I was thinking all these things and the verses came to mind Ephesians 6:12-13, and it reminds me that every day is a battle, some days we just feel it more than others.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Love,
Willa

He Qualifies the Called

So one of my New Year’s resolutions was to go on more adventures… And we went on a great one for my 25th birthday! We hiked several trails in the Boxley Valley area and stayed at a beautiful cabin near Jasper, AR that overlooks Steel Creek Valley. We got to see a herd of elk, we talked around the campfire, ate some great food, took in the breathtaking views, explored the rock formations and waterfalls… I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend with a better group of people. I took my camera along and here are some pics from the trip:

I’m not in the greatest of shape, and hiking is challenging for me still even though my arthritis is much improved from six months ago. I’ve found that stopping and taking photos is a great way to take little breaks while hiking. Haha! I may be at the back of the pack, but it’s teaching me to take the time to enjoy and document the amazing details along the way that I might otherwise skip over.

That reminds me of something…

Last night we just finished up our young women’s Bible study series called “Unashamed” by Christine Caine. I wanted to share one of the closing thoughts, because it spoke to me in a big way:

It is so important that we do not allow the words and actions of others, or for that matter, even our own self-talk, to define us or limit our potential. God does not ever call the qualified. He qualifies the called.

It’s a process, but I am learning to let go of what I think about myself, and just go with it and be used by God! God uses all of my limits, my imperfections, my flaws, for His glory and for my good. Even things like being the slowest hiker EVER can end up being a positive (photos and memories I might otherwise have missed out on). I’m reminded that when we stop focusing on our own shortcomings and instead focus on serving God and others, that is when things fall into place and we can begin to see the big picture of the good life that He has for us! I’m so thankful for that reminder and for that wonderful weekend enjoying the beauty of the outdoors. What a great way to kick off my 25th birthday year!

Love,
Willa

New Beginnings

I know I’m a couple of days late, but Happy New Year! I’ve never been much for New Year’s resolutions, but there are just a few things that have been on my heart that I wanted to share.

But first – a little health update! I’ve been seeing a rheumatologist for the joint pain I’ve been experiencing. I’ve been to see her twice and will go back in another couple of weeks for a followup visit. She has been very positive and encouraging, and so knowledgeable! It’s still a little confusing because my lab work doesn’t show any specific arthritis markers. She’s diagnosed me with “seronegative inflammatory arthritis.” She told me that sometimes the lab work shows up negative, but not to be surprised if later on down the road as the disease progresses it starts to show up positive. But God is so, so good, and with the right treatment and doing my best to stay active and moving, the pain is almost gone! I’ve been feeling so much better that on New Year’s Day we actually went on a 3-mile hike.

Here are some photos from our New Year’s Day hike to Hawksbill Crag (Shot with a Nikon D3300):

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Photo credit: Jacob Bruggeman

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Photo credit: random hiker

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Photo credit: Jacob Bruggeman

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So blessed to be feeling good enough to walk without pain – it’s the little things in life that we so much take for granted! That’s definitely something that God has been showing me over the last six months.

Now, for those New Year’s resolutions. I have three! Maybe that sounds like overkill, but all three have been on my heart and I feel are worth sharing:

  1. Regaining my physical strength – this one might seem a little obvious with everything that has been going on. It’s a goal of mine to really work on my strength and become stronger than I’ve ever been in 2017. I want hike, kayak, camp… I want to take every opportunity that comes up to explore new places!
  2. Being generous to others – this is something Bo and I have really been talking about lately. These past six months we have really had people go out of their way to bless us and make sure that we were taken care of. We want to show that same kindness to others this coming year. We want to focus on showing hospitality in our home, giving to others, and doing small acts of kindness. We are praying for hearts that will be open to opportunities as God leads us!This third one is much more personal. It’s not fun or easy for me to share this, because I’m more than a little ashamed when I think back on the way I’ve acted. BUT, if this is encouraging for anyone or sheds light on some of the same struggles for even one other person out there then it’s well worth it for me to share it and I just need to swallow my pride, ha!
  3. Being kind to the people closest to me – there have been so many nights I’ve come home from work exhausted and have been less than nice to my poor hubs. I don’t know if I speak for any other nurses out there (Please… I’m hoping that I’m not alone in this…), but after a 12-13 hour shift of being “nice” to patients and family members, sometimes when I get home I just explode. It’s like a bomb going off. All of the frustrations I’ve bottled up and the words I’ve had to bite my tongue and swallow over the course of the day just seem to fly through the air like shrapnel. And of course they hit the ones closest to me.
    I don’t want to go into this in a lot of detail, but I’ll paraphrase something I wrote in my journal last month after an experience similar to what I just described: “It doesn’t matter how kind I was to my patients at work; it doesn’t matter that I made sure they had every little thing they needed even if that meant staying late; it doesn’t matter that I smoothed over a difficult situation; it doesn’t matter that I had a meaningful conversation with a patient or co-worker. All of that good stuff I did at work becomes null and void if I come home and can’t even speak kindly to the nearest and dearest person that God has placed in my life.”
    So, if anyone out there struggles with this, please comment below and let me know I’m not alone! I’m not sure why it is, but I’ve found that some days it’s hardest to be kind to the very person who loves you the most and seemingly should be the easiest to be kind to. God has really been convicting me of this, and it’s my top personal goal for 2017 – to just be nice.

In conclusion, let’s just say I’m really looking forward to a New Year and new beginnings! I’m excited to work on getting my strength back and exploring and getting outdoors as much as possible. I’m hoping for God to give Bo and I many, many opportunities to bless others – I know that He will! And I’m feeling very humbled after sharing that third personal goal of working on being kind to the ones closest to me. I’m praying for God to renew my heart going into this new year.

May He help me and each one reading this post to never grow weary of doing good, and to show mercy and grace to others as we have been shown mercy and grace. Wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year!

Love,
Willa